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Retraction Watch

Tracking retractions as a window into the scientific process

Nature corrects a correction

with 13 comments

nature 4 9 14Last year, we reported on a Nature correction of a paper for what a McGill University committee had earlier called “intentionally contrived and falsified” figures. It turns out that the correction — like the original paper — left some Nature readers puzzled, so the journal has run a correction of the correction:

Owing to an error in the production process, some details were omitted from the advance online publication version of this Corrigendum: this is the complete version. When our Letter was under consideration at Nature, we originally showed co-immunoprecipitation between caspase-1 and wild-type caspase-12 or catalytically inactive caspase-12 (C299A) as part of Fig. 4. In response to reviewers’ comments, requesting co-immunoprecipitation with other caspases for specificity control, this original figure was removed from the manuscript and was later published as part of figure 6 of ref. 1. It was recently brought to our attention that the published Fig. 4c of our Letter is a composite image containing parts of the original figure (the immunoprecipitation lanes in Fig. 4c), and that the input lanes (‘Total Casp12’) are duplicated. Similarly, the anti-tubulin control right lanes of Fig. 4b are duplicates of the left lanes. We are unable to reconcile how these images were incorrectly assembled despite diligent efforts to do so. Figure 1 of this Corrigendum shows a correct Fig. 4c, representing a new and independent experiment, to replace Fig. 4c of our Letter. The interpretation of the data and the conclusions are unaffected; namely, that caspase-12 forms a complex with and co-immunoprecipitates with caspase-1 when co-expressed by transfection into human (HEK293T) cells. There is also some association of caspase-12 with caspase-5 (more so than previously described) but very little with caspase-9. The experiment is robust and has been repeated a total of four times (twice each by two workers, M.S. and Claudia Champagne). We have also re-probed the original western blot in Fig. 4b with anti-tubulin and provide a replacement panel for that loading control in Fig. 1 of this Corrigendum. Our conclusions remain unaltered and the original legend for Fig. 4 also remains correct.

Figure 1: This figure shows a correct Fig. 4c and Fig. 4b for our Letter:

saleh figure 1

For clarity, more details for the legend to Fig. 2a are also provided. It should read: “LacZ-neo cassette in the Casp12 targeted allele; β-galactosidase appears red). Panel I shows an intestine section from a wild-type mouse that was stained for β-galactosidase as a negative control. Panels II and III show intestine sections. Panel III is an enlarged view from Panel II. Panels IV–VII show splenic sections. Panel VI is another region of the section shown in Panel V.”. The Supplementary Information to this Corrigendum shows the data used to generate Fig. 1 of this Corrigendum and Fig. 2a of our Letter.

We’d say this now easily qualifies as a mega-correction. Whether it really corrects the record, and gives reader the whole story, is another question.

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Written by Ivan Oransky

April 14, 2014 at 9:30 am

13 Responses

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  1. Or is it a “mega-mega correction” and hence the need to upscale to a “tera correction”?

    What pushes the irony meter off scale is that a University investigation states “intentionally contrived and falsified” figures, while a journal is happily issues serial corrections rather than doing the right thing and pulling the paper.


    April 14, 2014 at 9:42 am

    • Yup, its a nobrainer—just yank it!

      ed goodwin

      April 14, 2014 at 9:45 am

  2. Assuming one or more author(s) “intentionally contrived and falsified” figures without the knowledge of the rest of 8 or less authors on this paper originally. However, even after McGill University committee investigation and conclusion of data falsification, why have the ‘innocent’ ‘were not aware’ authors not come forward to call for the retraction of the paper? The silence of the ‘innocent’ ‘were not aware’ authors speaks of their complicity in the data falsification.


    April 14, 2014 at 10:27 am

  3. More data from Saleh lab are not reproducible



    April 14, 2014 at 11:38 am

    • It is not surprising considering that the need to falsify data arises only when one feels a lack of time to conduct the experiment or else the data does not support the hypothesis / mechanism. Get away with it once with the blessings of ‘mentor’ and ‘authorities’ in the field and keep repeating it till caught .. or may be even after getting caught since there are apparently no penalties for data falsification!!


      April 14, 2014 at 12:13 pm

      • Right on target!!!

        ed goodwin

        April 14, 2014 at 2:16 pm

    • And interestingly, note that the Saleh lab made an error in respondng to this letter to the editor, resulting in yet another Corrigendum!


      April 14, 2014 at 4:47 pm

  4. Following a series of failures to do the right thing, of which this is just one example, Nature have, in my view, lost all credibility in terms of policing the scientific record.


    April 14, 2014 at 3:41 pm

    • OK, let me get this straight. Are you claiming that Nature, with an impact factor of 38.597 (http://www.nature.com/npg_/company_info/impact_factors.html), and published by Nature Publishing Group, which also publishes about another 5 journals with impact factors ranging between 30 and 41 is not able to effectively police the scientific record? This seems to contradict what Thomson Reuters states (http://thomsonreuters.com/journal-citation-reports/): “The recognized authority for evaluating journals”. JCR also claims (http://wokinfo.com/products_tools/analytical/jcr/): “JCR provides the context to understand a journal’s true place in the world of scholarly literature”. If so, and if we know that the IF is heavily gamed and distorted as a quality metric, then why do so many Minisitries of Education around the world continue to promote it as the ultimate sign of academic quality and thus reward their scientists, FINANCIALLY, for gaming the IF? In my field, The International Society for Horticultural Science, which publishes Acta Horticulturae, and claims to run a peer review of all its papers, strangely stands firmly against the imapct factor (after Thomson Reuters denied it an IF score, that is): http://www.ishs.org/news/use-and-abuse-impact-factor-scientists-rebel
      So, who (i.e., which publisher) do we trust?


      April 14, 2014 at 4:15 pm

    • PNAS have also published a correction (http://www.pnas.org/content/111/5/2047.1.full) to the first correction they published to the paper that contained the figure that had to be corrected because it was the same one that was “intentionally contrived and falsified” and published in Nature. The second correction explains that as the figure in Nature has now been replaced, there is now no problem with having it re-published in PNAS.


      April 14, 2014 at 5:23 pm

      • Indeed the latest PNAS re-correction is a more interesting read than the one in Nature…according to the notice (written by the authors, I guess?), the problematic Nature Figure was “republication of data (as a) consequence of miscommunication among co-authors working in different locations”. This certainly downplays the seriousness of the findings of the McGill committee…


        April 15, 2014 at 9:18 am

  5. When I say ‘police’, I mean the short-term and long-term actions that reduce crime. Nothing to do with impact factor.

    When one of the world’s premier journals is unable or unwilling to take appropriate responsibility for retracting an invalid article produced by misconduct, then lesser journals know they can simply do the same.

    This is a terrible example of scientific policing.


    April 15, 2014 at 11:50 am

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